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Farm Workforce Modernization Act

For years, the produce industry and our agriculture sector partners have made an overwhelming case for legislation to reform our broken immigration system and help build a legal and reliable workforce. With the passage of the bipartisan 2019 Farm Workforce Modernization Act in the House of Representatives, we thought we were on our way towards finally achieving the reform our members so desperately need. 

This legislation marked an important first step in that process and it included the basic principles of immigration reform that we have long advocated for. The bill provided legal status for the current workforce, reforms the current federal agriculture guestworker program known as H-2A and ensures that we will have future access to a skilled, dedicated workforce. The bill also included provisions to ensure the proper enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws, but is contingent upon including the reforms to the current and future workforce for which we have long advocated.

Following House passage we turned to the Senate, working to replicate the bipartisan effort that resulted in passing the bill in the House. Given the dynamics of the Senate, a different process unfolded, layered with the onset of COVID-19 in early 2020, an immigration bill in the Senate did not move.

As the new Congress begins, President-elect Biden has indicated he will submit immigration legislation to Congress in the first 100 days. United and allies are making a strong push to include needed agriculture reform in the Administration’s proposal. Part of the United 2021 Action Plan includes the push to reintroduce the House passed Farm Workforce Modernization Act to serve as the initial legislation to guide the Biden administration’s efforts to pass immigration reform.

Farm Workforce Modernization Act Details

Agriculture Labor By The Numbers

  • There are an estimated 3 million foreign workers in the U.S. agricultural labor force
  • The number of full-time equivalent field and crop workers fell by more than 20 percent between 2002 and 2014
  • As of 2016, the average age of a farm worker in the U.S. is 40 years old
  • In 2018 the Department of Labor approved 242,762 H-2A positions and in just the last year the number of approved H-2A jobs grew by 21% and the number of employer applicants grew by over 16%

To learn more about the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, please contact John Hollay, Senior Director of Government Relations & Public Policy.